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Book of the Week: Selected by Blake Andrews


Book Of The Week Nothing's Coming Soon Photographs by Clay Maxwell Jordan Reviewed by Blake Andrews Nothing’s Coming Soon is an extended meditation on the signs and signals that life is the greatest unsolved mystery. Photographing the beauty that’s to be found in the everyday, Jordan lets us feel in a palpable way how we’re always a half step away from joy, death, disintegration and renewal.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZH809
Nothing's Coming Soon. By Clay Maxwell Jordan.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZH809
Nothing's Coming Soon Photographs by Clay Maxwell Jordan

Fall Line Press, Atlanta, USA, 2018.
94 pp., 59 color illustrations, 9¼x11½".

Nothing's Coming Soon, the title of Clay Maxwell Jordan's debut monograph (Fall Line Press, 2018) is a phrase wide open to interpretation. That's just fine by Jordan, who deliberately chose the title for its ambiguous qualities. "Perhaps the most obvious interpretation," he explains, "is that dead/non-existence is imminent… Literally 'nothing' is coming soon." Hmm, okay.

"The other meaning," he continues, "is perhaps a bit more oblique: a repudiation of the 'overnight cure' mentality that seems so predominant the world over, but particularly in America." A third meaning, according to Jordan, might refer to human progress. The arc of the moral universe may indeed bend toward justice, but hang tight because it might take a while. Nothing's coming soon.

Like the title, the photos in Jordan's book don't reveal their meaning easily. Ostensibly they are portraits and landscapes describing Jordan's home state of Georgia. But their emotional resonance, halfway between mischievous and graceful, defies easy penetration. Portraits of people comprise roughly half of the book's fifty-nine photos, but Jordan's deadpan approach keeps his subjects at arm's reach. Some subjects are caught gaping mid-moment. Others turn their back to the camera, or leer into the background. It's tough to form any sure judgement about them, and indeed Jordan himself doesn't know much. These are strangers found in passing. Perhaps nothing's coming soon for them. But who can tell for sure?
Jordan takes a cagey approach to social landscape. The lush vegetation of the south makes its presence felt, but in a supporting role. Instead, toys, statues, and vernacular structures step into the spotlight, sometimes quite literally. There are a few domestic interiors in the mix too, their character stripped to flat tones by Jordan's flash. Bit by bit, Jordan gets at the southern vernacular. A moody church nightscape conveys the local sensibility as well as a hunting decoy. But it's the universal themes that expand the territory. Photos, like a dog leaping for joy, or light passing through branches, or a blank house facade, recall southern giants like Eggleston and Steinmetz.

The entropic passage of time is a recurring subject. Photos of a splintered utility pole, a mangled culvert, a discarded note, and a busted mural hint at devolution, all capped by a mansion in despair —a home inspired by Oscar Wilde, the anecdote recounted in Alexander Nemerov's (Diane Arbus' nephew) afterward. Jordan's wit, however, keeps his photos from descending into the old ruin porn schtick. Instead, he acknowledges decay with a nod and a wink. Yes, nothing's coming soon. But it's less of a tragedy than irony.

At first glance, the book's elegant design seems out of keeping with its clever contents. The title is in gilded script, across a plain pink cloth cover. Not very ironic at all. But a visit to the Fall Press site made things clear for me. The book is modeled on a funeral program, "forebod(ing) an exploration of life’s most pressing issue: death." Ah, makes sense now. Hopefully that version of nothing is still far off. In the meantime, Jordan's book is an entertaining interlude.

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Blake Andrews is a photographer based in Eugene, OR. He writes about photography at blakeandrews.blogspot.com.

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